Data Backup & Recovery
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MAR 20, 2020
Data Backup and Recovery Methods
Whether your data is stored on premises or in the cloud, you need to protect it. Let’s take a look at some common methods of backup and recovery.
Data backup methods
- Disks or tape backup. These are the oldest of the backup methods we’re discussing. Traditional tape backups have their benefits (fairly inexpensive), but also have their drawbacks (slower backup and recovery times, and management of physical tapes). With tape, you’re sequentially backing up your data on a physical device. Hard disks offer a faster backup and recovery process than tape and include additional benefits such as deduplication and data compression.
- Hybrid cloud backup. With a hybrid cloud backup solution, you’re essentially backing up data on a local device and in a secure offsite data center for redundancy. You always have a secure local copy of your data, but you also have it stored offsite. Also, your machines are backed up to the local device first, so you don’t have to worry about the replication to the cloud affecting the performance of machines or your Internet connection. The best practice, in this case, would be to back up from the local device to a secure offsite data center after business hours (automatically of course).
- Direct-to-cloud backup. With direct-to-cloud backups, you send your data directly to the cloud, bypassing the need for a local device. In this case, you’re backing up your data in a remote data center, without the local copy in your office. Depending on your Internet speeds and specs of your machines, these backups could take much longer. Direct-to-cloud backups may make sense for SaaS data because you’re essentially doing a backup of data that already lives in the cloud!
Data recovery methods
- Recover from your local device. This only works if you have a device locally (like in the hybrid cloud backup method mentioned above). Some solutions actually allow you to spin up a virtual machine right from the device, so your business operations (applications, settings, files, folders) can all run from the device. This may be a great option if you’ve experienced server failure, or a machine has had a security compromise. And because you’re recovering from your local device, it happens quickly.
- Recover from the cloud. Other solutions require you to download your backed up data from the cloud. This involves transferring gigabytes or even terabytes of data over your Internet connection (in most cases) which could result in hours or even days of downtime. If this is the route you take, it’s imperative you find a solution that can recover from the cloud in a few minutes.
- Recover right in the cloud. If your local device is damaged, some providers can spin up a virtual machine for you right in the cloud, also known as “disaster recovery as a service” or DRaaS. In other words, you can continue to run these important applications right from the cloud!
These are just a few of the ways businesses back up and recover data. There are advantages to each backup method, but finding a solution that offers you the combination of fast, reliable backups and robust recovery solutions can determine how quickly and easily your business can recover. When picking a solution, you have to ask yourself a few questions. How much downtime can I tolerate? Do I need my data saved offsite in the case of a disaster?
Regardless of which method you choose, one thing you should always do (with the guidance of your business continuity provider) is test, test, test… but we’ll save that topic for a future post.
MAR 19, 2020
How to Spot Phishing Emails
Phishing scams are getting more sophisticated on a daily basis, thus harder to detect and avoid. With the abundance of file sync and share platforms, phishing scammers are impersonating these services and sharing fake documents or folders in an attempt to infect your computer.
For those of you who aren’t in the Cybersecurity industry, here are some important tips for you.
If you receive an email that looks like it may be phishing, check the “show details” dropdown under the sender’s name. You will see a section labeled as “signed-by”. This field can help determine if an email was shared securely from a service.
The goal is to determine if the signed-by field was generated by a DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) or a service. A DKIM attaches a domain identifier to the signature to display an email generated by a user in the domain. For example, if you received an from firstname.lastname@example.org, you would see a DKIM in the signature that looks like this datto-com.20150623.gappssmtp.com. This is how all emails through a domain are processed.
Emails shared through a service (i.e. Drive, Calendar, Dropbox, Box, Etc) do not have a DKIM. Instead you would see the signature of the provided service. If something is shared through Dropbox for example, you would see: signed-by dropbox.com.
Below is an example of a secure file that was shared through Google Docs:
Note the “mailed-by” section is signed by a service.
Now let’s look at this phishing email.
Besides the giant red banner warning, you can tell this is risky because:
- It was a shared file that was BCC’d and not shared privately from the service.
- Note the suspicious “to” address email@example.com
- The subject has a very generic name.
- The signed-by field is sent from an email and not the service (should be something.bounces.google.com or something.dropbox.com). The mailed by field also should list the service it is being sent from.
If you receive a file, and it is not signed by google.com, gmail.com, dropbox.com, it is likely phishing, so DO NOT OPEN. Much like dealing with ransomware, it’s important to remain vigilant and operate with caution in these circumstances.
MAR 17, 2020
What is Disaster Recovery Testing?
The purpose of IT disaster recovery testing is to discover flaws in your disaster recovery plan so you can resolve them before they impact your ability to restore operations. For managed service providers, DR testing is essential. Regular testing is the only way to guarantee you can restore customer operations quickly following an outage.
So, you’ve recovered from the shock of a disaster due to server failure or a recent flood that damaged all your computers, and you probably thought the worst is over. Unfortunately, you may not be out of the woods yet. Even though you backed up all your important data, you find out the backups failed.
What and When to Perform a Disaster Recovery Test
Disaster recovery testing has to be done in order to validate your business continuity plan. Depending on the solution, you should test that your backups are recoverable through:
- Your onsite-business continuity device (to ensure that your device can recover your data in seconds right from the device itself)
- The cloud-to-onsite location (to check download speeds and effects on resources)
- Offsite-cloud virtualization, also known as disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS)
Your first disaster recovery test will likely be an eye opener, but it will make it easier to identify and resolve issues. Testing every quarter will validate that you’re doing the right thing for your business.
From Quarterly Testing to Daily Verifications
For most people, quarterly testing isn’t enough. After all, you never know when you’ll need it. Luckily, you can ensure backups are working properly even without a full disaster recovery test.
If you work with an MSP, make sure they have proof of your daily backups. While an email alert or report after a backup can ensure the backup was taken, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a backup is functioning properly. To determine this, you have to start the backup as a virtual machine and ensure it works.
Another option would be to have daily screenshots that prove your backup worked. A screenshot will be emailed to you or your MSP, showing the login screen of whichever machine was backed up. These aren’t screenshots of your actual machine – they’re screenshots of your backups! The ultimate proof that your system image is backed up and recoverable.
The best solutions give you peace of mind that your business is protected from data loss and downtime. The worst time to find out that a backup didn’t work is when you really need it. Disaster recovery testing should be a part of your overall business strategy with the help of your business continuity provider.
Here are a few tips that can help ensure your testing efforts are effective:
- Choose Technology That Facilitates Testing: Instant recovery technology fundamentally changed how DR testing is performed by allowing users to easily spin up virtual machines and test the ability to restore operations. The testing process will vary depending on the backup system that you choose.
- Define the Scope of Testing: Are you testing the ability to spin up a virtual machine locally? In the cloud? Both? Is the test conducted in a cloud-based environment that mirrors the production environment? Or, is the scope broader than that? Other tests might go beyond IT—testing an emergency generator, for example.
- Test Regularly: How frequently should you perform disaster recovery tests? Unfortunately, there’s no magic number. Again, it’s a matter of balancing customer needs with your time and resources. For example, you might conduct local spin up tests quarterly and a more comprehensive cloud failover twice a year.
For more tips on all things DR testing, check out our eBook: Disaster Recovery Testing Made MSPeasy. In this eBook, you will learn the importance of DR testing, how to choose the proper technology, why you should document everything, and more!
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